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Gorn Porn: The Star Trek Game Trailer Debuts

The objective: Make a game as content free as the movie. A proper triumph of style over substance, of things exploding over space exploration and then add echo noises.

The question everyone must be asking is where are the lens flares? Lens flare technology in games was developed long ago. Star Trek the game has plenty of bloom, but needs more lens flares to hide just how low res its textures are. Just take a look at this gorgeous screenshot from 2005.

star trek game sucks

Namco Bandai’s JJ Abrams’ Star Trek has focused its graphical focus on the important things. Like making sure that Spock looks exactly like Zachary Quinto and not that other guy. Whatever his name is. And once they did that they didn’t have any more time or resources left so they just imported a few terrain maps from Half Life or Morrowind.

For a nostalgia kick, here’s Star Trek 25th Anniversary’s trial sequence.

“I’m James T. Kirk. I’m more worthy than you’ll ever be. And I have girlfriends on fifty planets who will vouch for that.”

And it even has better graphics than Co-Op Quinto shooter.

Why Star Trek Enterprise Failed

(I’ll keep this brief after the earlier marathon post this morning.)

Enterprise was an attempt to get back to classic Star Trek. It wasn’t a very good attempt because the people making it didn’t understand classic Star Trek very well… or like it very much. Enterprise was how they saw TOS. It was their version of it.

Audiences had fled DS9 and Voyager. The ratings were low. The franchise was in trouble. So they tried to make a classic Star Trek series. Or star trek enterprise azati primewhat they saw when they looked at Star Trek.

Make the Captain an old-fashioned wild card type. Put in a Vulcan. Keep the crew small and mostly human. Make the technology cruder. Have the humans dislike the aliens. Show some skin. Break some rules. Get them to explore space. Show how the Federation got started. Then throw in some exit strategies so continuity doesn’t matter too much. A temporal cold war. Pre-Starfleet starship. There’s your classic Star Trek series.

That summary wasn’t completely wrong, but it was completely incomplete. It was something like Star Trek, but it wasn’t really Star Trek. It was Voyager with a new skin, but without the gimmicks or a large cast. It felt empty, because it was.

Enterprise wasn’t the show that the producers wanted to make. It was the show they had to make. There was nowhere else to go. The gimmicks had failed, so they went throwback. They went prequel, which was popular then. Then after them came the reboot, which is popular now.

Every story, every fictional universe has its built in rules. The parameters that cover how things work in it. First you learn the rules. Then you can break them. Berman and his favorites boasted of breaking the rules. They were going to make Star Trek their own way. And they did. It failed. Then they tried following the rules, but they didn’t know the rules. They never learned them. So they imitated what they saw.

When they looked at the Original Series, they saw a sparse show focused around the ship’s captain and one or two subordinates. They saw crude technology. They saw a lower comfort level with aliens. They saw space portrayed as a dangerous place. They saw sexism. They saw “seat of the pants” tactics and stories where the captain goes to a strange place, is captured, breaks free, acts like a jackass and moves on.

And they copied all those things. One after another. And they didn’t understand what they were doing wrong. They didn’t like TOS and didn’t really get it. It wasn’t a show they could take seriously. It was like the Adam West Batman to them. So they tried to make it a little more serious. And that made it even worse because their idea of serious was Voyager. On top of their bad clone of TOS, they pasted in Voyager.

The Original Series was more than the sum of its parts. It was more than Shatner and Nimoy breaking out of another cell on an alien planet Star Trek Enterpriseand then yelling at the aliens about doing the right thing. It was about more than a human dominated crew in an intergalactic federation. It was more than Uhura in a miniskirt and repeating back what she heard on her earpiece before being forced to make out with Kirk.

When Berman and Braga looked at TOS, they saw the flaws. And they thought, “If this is what the fans want. We’ll give it to them. We’ll have a captain who constantly gets captured and yells at aliens. We’ll have a Vulcan to be uptight all the time. We’ll have a good-looking guy who sleeps with chicks. We’ll try to fix it up a little so it’s not as stupid as the old one, and then we’ll give the dorks exactly what they want.”

But TOS was more than the sum of its flaws or its silly moments. Its core was its ambition. Its fans saw what it did best. But the people who made Enterprise saw it as a dumb silly show and tried to make a classier version of it. A show that fans would agree was classic, but that would also let the producers do their thing. Win-win.

That’s how we got Enterprise. That’s why it failed.

Revisiting Star Trek Enterprise

Last week I wanted to check something in one of my Enterprise reviews and found that Trekweb‘s directory links to my Enterprise reviews seem to be down and a lot of the reviews are infected with redirect malware. I pieced together the reviews, some from older links and archives and put them up. The experience was curiously uninvolving. I remembered some of these episodestar trek enterprise season 1s, but I couldn’t find myself caring about them.

Even when the show originally aired, there was a distance there. Today I have trouble remembering the episodes off the cuff. Looking at the reviews, I remembered them again, one by one, but it won’t take long for me to forget. That’s not true of any of the earlier series which stuck with me. It shows in the reviews.

Going back over some of my old Voyager reviews to try and put them into order, I find myself reacting in one way or another, good or bad. Enterprise episodes get a flat response. I remember faintly that I didn’t really want to review Enterprise. After a few years of reviewing Voyager episodes for Trekweb, the new show didn’t really appeal to me. Steve Perry was the original reviewer. I was asked to fill in when he couldn’t do it anymore. At first it was going to be alternating. But then before you know it, four years had gone by.star trek enterprise two days and two nights

The quality of the reviews is different too. I put more work into the Voyager reviews. They had more to say. The Enterprise reviews are shorter. Curt. Often they’re angry and dismissive. More so than I remembered. But on

some level I did care about the show, because it was Star Trek, even if it didn’t really feel like it or look like it. I went into every episode wanting it to be good, and coming away feeling nothing at all.

Was that my fault or was it the show’s fault? Enterprise seemed like the show that inspired star trek enterprise the crossingthe least passion and interest from… everyone.

When looking for images to stick into the reviews, I found a lot of pictures for every Voyager episode, but fewer and fewer pictures for Enterprise. Season 1 still had some people collecting graphics. By season 4, they had become hard to find. The most frequent Enterprise episode screenshots are usually T’Pol nude scenes. Jolene Blalock criticized the writing on Enterprise and while it improved gradually toward the end, she had a point. What she didn’t say, though I suspect she knew, is that before Enterprise, no Star Trek series had a character who was there to get naked. Over and over again. 7 of 9 came closest and that was a symptom of Voyager’s decline. T’Pol was a sign of complete desperation. Another emotionally dead woman, there tStar Trek Enterprise T'Pol naked Harbingero appeal to fleeing viewers by taking off her clothes. And it didn’t even work.

Despite the erotic massage arc of Season 3  (Yes, there actually was such a thing. It’s hard to believe. It’s even harder to believe that it fused into the show’s version of September 11.) the viewers kept losing interest. And that was also sad. Because Season 2 had been better than Season 1. Season 3 had been better than Season 2. And Season 4 was better than Season 3.

For all my criticisms of Enterprise, the show kept improving. Consistently from year to year, it got better. And still viewers kept leaving because it never got good enough. No other Star Trek series got better year after year. Some had a golden year, like Voyager’s Season 6. Some, like TNG, bounced up and down. Some like TOS, went into a decline.

But the writing was only part of Enterprise’s problem. Star Trek’s writing was always uneven. Every series has had great moments and a lot of average ones. And what people tune for isn’t the writing, it’s the characters.

Orson Scott Card wrote about Tarzan and Edgar Rice Burroughs,

Here’s the great secret of literature: No matter how good a writer is, both language and fashion change over time, and what was once a vivid part of the culture becomes a footnote in literary history.

The stories and characters that endure do so for reasons having almost nothing to do with the talent of the writer.

It’s true of Star Trek also. Not completely. Talent has something to do with it. The star trek enterprise shuttlepod oneability to envision all this, from the setting to the characters, is also a talent. But writing original plots, gripping dialogue and compelling ideas… that didn’t matter as much.

Enterprise’s writing was uneven and trended mediocre, but it failed because the characters weren’t there. Because Bakula’s Archer was an erratic manchild, who only slowly became an adult and a commander to be admired. By the time his evolution was complete in Season 3, most of the viewers had left, never to return. The easygoing capable captain he played in Season 4 was the one that viewers wanted all along. Developing him as a character from a borderline idiot and bigot had alienated them. It was someone’s idea of “good writing” that did that.

T’Pol had potential. Blalock wanted to play Spock. Instead she was forced to play a repressed hysteric who was prone to explosionsstar trek enterprise north star and an unwanted intruder on a starship whose captain would rather hang out with his best friend. She was usually right, but was never allowed to be right. By DS9, the Star Trek franchise had developed a bizarre hatred of Vulcans. They began to show up as villains. By Abrams Trek, their planet was blown up to get them out of the way.

Tucker, a classic character out of place, that no one could figure out what to do with. On his own, Tucker seemed like a good idea. A throwback to the kind of men who went into space. He was meant to be McCoy, but he was more like Paris, another man child, on a ship that already had too many of them. Tucker hanging out with Archer felt like a grown up frat party. Tucker and Reed felt off. Tucker and T’Pol was creepy and not just because of the blue lighting and skin shots. Maybe it was star trek enterprise future tenseBraga’s touch, but there was sleaze all over Tucker. He seemed less like a great engineer and more like the guy who never finished High School, but hangs out in the parking lot throwing a football and trying to pick up High School girls. Tucker was McCoy without the sense of duty or old school gentleman habits.

Mayweather was a blank. Nothing. Harry Kim all over again. Bakula and Blalock don’t get the blame for their characters, but that’s not the case here. Mayweather got developed. And the role didn’t require him to act like an idiot.

Hoshi Sato, Reed and Phlox were good characters, but like the rest of the show they were muted. There weren’t enough people. The star trek enterprise singularityEnterprise always seemed deserted. There wasn’t enough life in it. Voyager and DS9 had felt crowded. The Enterprise NCC-1701E was a flying city in space. Enterprise NX-01 felt like a generation ship with too few people and none of them really worth paying attention to.

So many episodes were dark, visually, lonely and cramped. The show seemed to be going nowhere. The characters weren’t engaging. They were all lost in their own worlds. Archer, nursing his grudges, T’Pol, her secrets, Hoshi, her neurosis, Reed, his shyness, Phlox, his alienness, Mayweather, his emptiness, and Tucker went round and round, badgering them, trying to party with them, seduce them, cadge a drink from them. The only completely alive man on a dead ship. And somehow creepier for it.star trek enterprise future tense

Where the DS9 or Voyager crew pulled together in emergencies, it never felt that way on Enterprise. Not until the last season. That made the Enterprise crew feel real. Strangers passing each other in darkened corridors. But it wasn’t what people expected from Star Trek. The series had always been about a group of comrades blazing the star trails together, men and women who knew each other and felt comfortable with each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

Enterprise might have become that show in Season 5. But we’ll never know. And revisiting it gives me the same hollow feeling I had while watching. After writing this up and trying to think about Enterprise, I still come away feeling nothing at all.

Now With 40 Percent More Whoosh

What Gene Roddenberry wanted most of all was to remaster Star Trek TNG for Blu-Ray and add better special effects. Who knew?

Ok, he might have liked the new special effects, unless he hated them, mostly he would have understood the business side of keeping up sales for the old series, selling people who have them on DVD or VHS, the new Blu Rays, and getting a generation that’s used to better quality effects to buy this stuff.

But somehow I don’t think Roddenberry’s first reaction to a world with no Star Trek series on the air, because the TV exec who replaced him had trashed the franchise in three increasingly unpopular series, and a Star Trek movie that senselessly trashes his universe, would be to admire the improved renderings of the creatures in “Encounter at Farpoint.”

To give credit where credit is due, the whole campaign has been nice and the theater releases will be the closest thing to something that feels like a Star Trek movie that there has been since The Undiscovered Country. And that’s a long time. Stewardship is something and Gene would probably have appreciated that.

But polishing up old episodes for resale and turning over TOS to be remade as an action movie are just admissions that Star Trek is dead and there’s no way to move it forward. The recognizable characters can be milked for all they are. We’ll get a bunch of young Kirk and Spock movies, until they stop making money, but we’ll never get that young Picard movie because it just wouldn’t work.

But the power of TNG was that it showed that Star Trek was more than Kirk and Spock, that it could be extended to other characters, starships and times. Polishing up the old footage is a waste because it ignores what TNG really accomplished in transcending the limitations of stewardship.

 

I Guess It’s Nice and All…

I guess it’s nice and all that Star Trek and Star Trek TNG have enough commercial vitality to them that Paramount is actually taking the time to continue spiffing up the old shows. I like the redone Encounter at Farpoint look, not because I’m a big fan of tinkering with old shows but because it does a better job of making the older episodes match the later episodes. This way Encounter at Farpoint looks like it could have aired in Season Seven, aside from Q’s youthful looks. But it’s also a reminder that the franchise has no life except reselling the same commodities over and over again. A new show can’t be made, so get ready for spiffing up more originals.

Why People Hate Star Trek Voyager

GiantFreakingRobot has a list of six reasons why he believes Voyager never really worked. His first mistake is pointing to Voyager as the beginning of the end for the franchise. Actually DS9 was the beginning of the end. It was the first TNG spinoff and its ratings plummeted badly requiring repeated reboots. Toward the end it had a fraction of its former ratings.

The reasons themselves? Janeway was more Kirk than Picard, at least a crazy unbalanced version of Kirk. She charged in a lot of the time and threw her weight around. Except for the last two reasons, the others are too stupid to comment on. The only one that matters is did Voyager really make full use of its premise. No it didn’t and the easiest way to see that is to compare it to Stargate Universe which took a similar premise and tried to live it. Or Enterprise’s third season. Neither of them were perfect but they were much more committed to the concept.

Some of Voyager’s best episodes used the premise, like The Void. But it also managed great standalone episodes that didn’t, like Blink of an Eye, which could have popped up on any of the Star Treks. Voyager doesn’t get enough credit for its good episodes, but at least unlike DS9 it wasn’t constantly being rebooted from Exploring the Wormhole to War Show to Sisko as the Chosen One Fighting the Red Devil Orbs.

Robot is close enough when he says that the problem was the characters. They were a big part of the problem. None of the post-TNG shows ever had a cast that really meshed together naturally. It was a bigger problem on Voyager, because unlike DS9 and Enterprise, not only didn’t the cast mesh, but most of the characters were either unlikable or not very interesting.

DS9 had actors who could carry the bad material. Enterprise’s actors were congenial enough that the bad stuff wasn’t as irritating. Voyager had few buffers except for the HoloDoc and Picardo’s prickly charm. Janeway, Chakotay, Paris, Kim, Tuvok, Seven and most of the cast were irritating one note characters and the actors couldn’t or wouldn’t bring anything to tone them down.

Robert Picardo and Ethan Philips seemed to be the only actors on the show trying to be sympathetic. Mulgrew went the other way. Beltran had occasional flashes of charm but mostly phoned it in. Robert Duncan McNeill decided to go as obnoxious as possible. Garret Wang couldn’t really act too well. Jeri Ryan was playing an emotionless sexbot with minimal nuance. Tim Russ has a great sense of humor, but chose to disregard a lot of what Nimoy did with Spock, and between the abrasive writing, made Tuvok as unlikable as possible.

It may not be completely fair to blame the actors for a show’s problems, the premise and the uneven writing were at fault, but the cast really did not step up to the task. Sure they mostly had one note characters, but they didn’t really try to bring any nuance to the material. They never made it come alive and they never made the show come alive.

DS9 didn’t really have great writing, but it had a supporting cast of people like Coombs, Robinson and Alaimo who would make the most of a single throwaway line. And that made up for Brooks and Visitor’s bad acting. It had Colm Meaney who could walk through the most banal material and still make you feel something. It had Rene Auberjonois who did with a similar character what Tim Russ failed to do, make him seem vulnerable despite his abrasiveness.

Imagine the actors switching places for a moment and suddenly Voyager would start looking better and DS9 would start looking worse.

Roddenberry’s Star Trek Pitch a Little Too Wedded to Alternate Earths

The original Star Trek pitch. This isn’t actually new, but blogs think anything that wasn’t on the internet before is new. So okay it’s new. If you haven’t read Stephen Whitfield, it’s new to you.

What’s interesting about the pitch is that there are stories here that are better than many of the actual episodes that got made. And others that read better than the way they were implemented. But also that Roddenberry was focused more on using alternate earths to comment on our earth, than on space exploration. It’s almost as if Roddenberry was trying to make Sliders or Gateways, not Star Trek.

Which begs the question why didn’t Roddenberry jettison the starship and just build a gateway that his explorers could move through. Maybe he didn’t see the contradiction of taking a starship to explore other earths. Back in the 1960’s, parallel earths in space weren’t considered as crazy in Science Fiction.

Star Trek didn’t actually have all that many parallel earths, though the ones we did have were too many. President Capone was awkwardly explained as coming about because of a book left behind, not because this was a planet where Capone actually took office. Going to Rome or watching Yanks and Coms fight each other was equally embarrassing. What Star Trek did best was comment on human nature, instead of naked attempts to comment on history.

Gene Roddenberry Would Be So Proud

So let’s say your country has high unemployment, poverty and a king/dictator who is facing major popular protests. What do you do?

A. Give away free stuff to everyone

B. Send in the tanks

C. Build a 1.5 billion dollar Star Trek theme park

Guess which one a Middle Eastern dictator/king who appeared on an episode of Star Trek Voyager picked? That’s right, Jordan is getting a 1.5 billion dollar Star Trek theme park. Because when food prices are high, you don’t give out bread, you give out Star Trek themed circuses.

We used to think Libya’s head nut was the looniest dictator in the region, but the Jordanian royals are trying to give him a run for his money.

“In the overall picture of things it’s not a huge investment,” she said. “If you want to do a Disney or a Universal, that amount would be just for the licence fees.

“The whole resort for profitability requires 480,000 people a year. Typical theme parks require millions of people to pass through in a year to start breaking even.

Yeah. Except 480,000 people is like 10 percent of the population of the country. And most of the tourists are coming for archeology or Saudis who want to kick back in a country with looser morals. How many of them are into Star Trek?

Star Trek is almost dead. It only lives on as a video game license and a series of action movies that use some of the characters from the original series. Does being used as a prop in a dictator’s circus to avoid reforms mean the end?

Why Star Trek is Libertarian

Star Trek Enterprise

Abigail Nussbaum at Asking the Wrong Questions says that Star Trek projects American and Western values into the future. Ilya Somin at Volokh Conspiracy says this can’t be because Star Trek is socialist. File this under missing the point.

 

Calling Star Trek socialist, forget defining socialism, it doesn’t matter, because we’re told next to nothing about the local economy. Whatever economy does exist wouldn’t look much like ours in a technological environment where you can make anything if you have enough energy. We hardly see the Federation off the deck of a starship. If our only view of 20th century earth was from the deck of the carrier USS Enterprise, think about the conclusions we would draw.

It’s not just right wingers who think Star Trek is socialist. Roberto Orci stupidly mentioned Budweiser being nationalized by the Federation. (What does nationalized even mean in an interstellar and interspecies alliance?) And why would they bother. That’s the real question. In an economy where the only shortage is energy, why bother controlling the means of production?

There’s no basis for either side. Sure Picard says that we don’t focus on the accumulation of wealth anymore. Obviously. What’s the point of accumulating something you can create in a replicator. Equally obviously, Starfleet uses outside contractors and manufacturers, and if they haven’t been nationalized (federationized?) why would Budweiser be.

What little we do know, is that Earth is an open society and the Federation’s individual planets go their own way. The crews use money, but don’t take it too seriously. About the only thing banned is genetic engineering. The contrast between the Federation and the Romulans, Cardassians and the TOS era Klingons, is that the Federation lets people make their own decisions. That’s the basic idea of the Prime Directive. Is a society that won’t intervene in a pre-warp culture really going to run everyone’s lives for them? Want to join the Federation? No one’s forcing you to. Want to leave, have a nice life.

What is the Federation really? It’s a synthesis of ideals. A libertarian system that encompasses different ideas and beliefs within a vast organization that provides for mutual defense and knowledge sharing, but not domestic control. It assumes that people have improved, but technology is the real game changer here.

In a society where basic needs can be had with a replicator and some solar panels to power it, debates between capitalism and socialism, are as abstract as us debating feudalism and theocracy. It doesn’t matter because we just don’t live that way. The economic pipeline in the 24th century doesn’t look anything like the way it does today. You don’t need Budweiser to get beer. You don’t need to work for Budweiser to be able to drink beer. (Ilya Somin speculating that Starfleet exists to collect taxes is equally off the wall. What taxes? Does Starfleet really need any subsidizing when it creates or discovers new technologies every week.)

The villainous races of Star Trek have been the deniers of agency, from the Borg down to conquering empires like the Klingons and Romulans, and the echoes of Communism and Nazism among the Cardassians. And that puts Star Trek closest to the libertarian corner.

The easiest way to see that is by asking the fundamental question of libertarianism. Will you allow other people to make bad decisions without intervening? That’s the essence of the Prime Directive. It’s the essence of Kirk distinguishing the Federation from the Klingons as the people who will stand by and allow you not to join, even if you have Dilithium that we need.

The Federation not only allows people to make bad decisions, it protects their right to do so. It makes interfering with their right to do so the greatest possible offense. IDIC is not a diversity seminar, it’s a statement of absolute free will. Everyone can choose to be what they want and that will only be for the better.

Star Trek isn’t utopian. It’s full of flawed people and institutions. Sure Next Generation’s view of how things should be was smothering. But it was a view that was rarely enforced on anyone except through inaction and a speech now and then. And it was a view mostly limited to one starship in one era.

If Star Trek had any politics it was left-libertarian, dreaming of a universe where economic realities no longer conflict with the search for knowledge, where the state is reduced to a loose interstellar consensus that the individual can affiliate with through organizations such as Starfleet or ignore most of the time. It may not be all that realistic, but with the emerging trends created by the internet, maybe it’s not so unrealistic after all.

Star Trek Generations Could Have Been Even Worse

Who knew

When were casting the role of Soran, which Malcolm McDowell played in Generations, I got a call from Marlon Brando’s agent saying that he was interested in doing it. It was the biggest thrill of my life. But the studio was not willing to pay the money that Mr. Brando was looking for.

Remember this was not the good Brando (debates on whether there ever was a good Brando will be held for another time), this was the Brando who went on to do The Island of Dr. Moreau at around the same time, a legendarily insane shoot which he made even worse by showing up with no pants, arbitrarily changing what was supposed to happen in the movie, possibly getting the director fired and other great stuff.

If Brando had actually shown up in Generations, the shoot, especially with a TV director like David Livingston who was completely out of his depth anyway, would have been spectacularly bad. Generations might have actually had to shut down, which might have forced Rick Berman out prematurely and changed Star Trek history forever. For better or worse, I don’t know.

Even if that didn’t happen, Brando’s presence wouldn’t have made the movie any better. Malcolm McDowell is a veteran and capably played the role. A few actors could have done it better, but how? Soren’s behavior had no framework. He was just a loon desperately addicted to a fantasy world and bent on killing as many people as it took to get there. And his screentime was limited by the goofy antics of the cast. If Soren had been developed properly, instead of showing us Data having a nervous breakdown, maybe.

Star Trek movies post-Harve Bennett did not have working villains. And even before that Star Trek III’s Kruge was an afterthought and the less said about Star Trek V the better. Christopher Plummer somehow managed to take a one note villain and play him with such sarcastic zest that he actually comes off really well. If Brando had done that, well who knows.

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